BARCELONA PODIUM FOR ROOKIE POINTS LEADER MAILLEUX
Manor Motorsport's Franck Mailleux claimed a hard-fought podium finish at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona this morning, Sunday, 23rd September, during the 16th round of the 2007 Formula 3 Euroseries.
The French 22-year-old is making big waves during his maiden season of F3 racing and is well on course to become the Rookie Champion having today consolidated his place at the head of the rookie standings with just four races remaining, Mailleux also taking fifth place during Saturday's round 15 at the famous Spanish track.
Qualifying in ninth position for the first race, team-mate Cyndie Allemann emerging from the session as the quickest Manor driver with the eighth fastest time, this soon became eighth and seventh on the grid respectively when the team's Dutch sensation Yelmer Buurman saw his qualifying times erased due to an alleged flag infringement.
Having scorched to third on the grid, Buurman would disappointingly be forced to start Saturday's rain-lashed encounter from the back of the 25-car field. His luck certainly didn't improve either when, on lap three, he was forced to retire.
From eighth place, Mailleux enjoyed a strong run to finish sixth on the road just behind team-mate James Jakes who scythed his way through the order from 11th on the grid to finish in a highly creditable fifth place. However, the post-race exclusion of Romain Grosjean saw both Manor stars moved up the finishing order one position each.
Although Allemann was unable to make the most of her top seven starting slot, she did come home in 16th position although this became 14th with the Grosjean exclusion and a further penalty for Kamui Kobayashi.
Sunday's 16th round saw a huge multi-car collision at the beginning which unfortunately saw Allemann caught-up in the incident and forced to retire on the spot, the whole chain of events triggered by pole-sitter Edoardo Piscopo stalling on the grid.
While Jakes had managed to fight his way through to second place from fourth on the grid, Mailleux was forced to take severe avoiding action from third to negotiate Piscopo's stranded car and a subsequent mistake at the first corner saw him slip to eighth.
With the Safety Car deployed while the start-line carnage was cleared, at the re-start Jakes remained in second position and looked a certainty for a richly deserved podium finish for the Dinnington-based squad.
However, a mistake at turn one on lap 17 saw the Yorkshireman run through the gravel on the exit of the corner. Although he rejoined in sixth place, after running wide at the same turn on lap 24 he slipped to seventh place and ended round 16 frustratingly just outside the points.
Conversely, Mailleux made incredible progress and having climbed into the top six after the re-start and then the top five following Jakes' error, the Frenchman produced two superb moves on laps 18 and 23 to pass Dani Clos and Filip Salaquarda respectively.
Mailleux ended round 16 an excellent third, less than a second behind the runner-up spot, with Jakes in seventh and Buurman coming home in 11th place after a battling drive from the back of the field which certainly deserved reward. Mailleux also posted the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1m 07.243 seconds (159.4 km/h).
Commenting on an event of mixed fortunes for Manor Motorsport, team boss
John Booth said: "Franck has performed well all weekend but was particularly strong today, excellent in fact. To come through from eighth place to third was fantastic and to set the fastest lap by half a second showed he was flying.
"The start-line problems potentially cost him a win today actually, added to fifth on Saturday he's had a good weekend. James did very well in race one and a podium looked a near certainty today, it was such a shame he made the mistake at turn one but that's racing sometimes."
Booth added: "Yelmer was very quick in qualifying and it was bitterly disappointing for his times to be disallowed. He raced strongly today though, finishing in 11th place from the back of the grid was credit to him. Cyndie's qualifying performance was a real highlight and we're so disappointed for her she was caught-up in the accident today."
Rounds 17 and 18 of the Formula 3 Euroseries season will take place just a week from now, 29th/30th September, at Nogaro in France. Away from its regular slot on the DTM package, the world's most prestigious F3 series will race on the same bill at Nogaro as the FIA GT Championship.